• Julianna Kearney

MCAT Monday: Behavior - Psychological Disorders


Biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors influence behavior and behavior change.


Human behavior is complex and often surprising, differing across individuals in the same situation and within an individual across different situations. A full understanding of human behavior requires knowledge of the interplay between psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that are related to behavior. This interplay has important implications for the way we behave and the likelihood of behavior change.


Foundational Concept 7 focuses on individual and social determinants of behavior and behavior change.


With these building blocks, medical students will be able to learn how behavior can either support health or increase risk for disease. (via AAMC)


Practice Articles/Videos:

Practice Questions:


1. Which of these cohorts is most likely to have experienced at least one major depressive episode over the last 12 months? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: People over the age of 50

  • B: People between 26 and 49 years of age

  • C: Women

  • D: Men

2. Jamie, while meeting with her primary care physician, states that she has been experiencing frequent panic attacks brought on by feelings of anxiety in social situations. The feelings of fear and anxiety are strongest whenever she is alone in a large crowd or in public spaces where there is no easily identifiable exits in case of an emergency. Jamie could be exhibiting symptoms of which of these disorders? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Agoraphobia

  • B: Generalized anxiety disorder

  • C: Social anxiety disorder

  • D: Panic disorder

3. Geneticists investigating a gene that controls a serotonin transporter protein that controls serotonin reuptake analyzed the 5-HTT genes of 847 people, determining two types: a ‘short’ and a ‘long’ allele. Each participant had been given a questionnaire which asked the individual to list any highly stressful life events experienced between the ages of 21 and 25. The figure shows the results for individuals with two long, two short, and one long gene and one short gene. What relationship did the data show between genetics and major depression episodes for individuals possessing two short alleles of the 5-HTT gene? Choose 1 answer:


  • A: Living a stressful life and possessing two short alleles increases the chance of a major depressive episode.

  • B: An increasing number of stressful life events is positively correlated with an increase in the probability of a major depressive episode in individuals with two short alleles.

  • C: An increasing number of stressful life events is negatively correlated with an increase in the probability of a major depressive episode in individuals with two short alleles.

  • D: Living a stressful life and possessing two short alleles decreases the chance of a major depressive episode.

4. There are many hypotheses regarding the biological etiology of schizophrenia. One, called the “dopamine hypothesis”, asserts that schizophrenia is caused by an abnormality in neurotransmission of dopamine. Which of these statements describes possible limitation to this hypothesis? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: Neuroleptic drugs are used to treat schizophrenia.

  • B: Drugs that increase dopamine levels in the brain make schizophrenia symptoms worse.

  • C: People with schizophrenia have on average twice as many D2 receptors as neurotypical individuals.

  • D: Anti-psychotic drugs take two to three weeks to begin to show efficacy.

5. Which of these statements does not describe accurate criteria for PTSD, as described by the DSM-5? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: The presence of memories, dreams, or dissociated reactions that are involuntary, intrusive, distressing, and recurrent lasting for more than one month.

  • B: Negative, distorted, or exaggerated, beliefs, cognitions, or moods associated with the traumatic event that lasts for more than one month.

  • C: Persistent avoidance of memories, thoughts, feelings, or external reminders associated with the traumatic event(s) lasting for more than one month.

  • D: Exposure to serious injury, sexual violence, or threatened or actual death lasting more than one month.

6. Unlike the DSM-IV-TR, the DSM-5 makes a distinction between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders by stating that “a paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder”. What does this difference in approach toward the description of paraphilic disorders imply? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: The APA believes that individuals engaging in nonnormative sexual practices have paraphilic disorders.

  • B: The APA has changed the description for paraphilia to allow it to cover more forms of nonnormative behavior. Labeling these behaviors as psychopathological allows more people with paraphilic disorder to obtain help.

  • C: The APA is making a distinction between normative and nonnormative behavior, labeling nonnormative behavior as psychopathological.

  • D: The APA did not change the description of paraphilic disorders, but rather emphasized that nonnormative behavior must cause distress or impairment, before labeling the behavior as psychopathological.

7. Which of these interactions between a doctor and a patient utilizes a biopsychosocial model? Choose 1 answer:

  • A: A doctor, who diagnoses a patient with ulcers, asks questions about stress management.

  • B: A doctor diagnoses a patient with migraines after asking questions regarding length of time and the severity of the symptoms experienced.

  • C: A doctor, who diagnosed a patient with severe back pain, recommended changes to how the patient lifts objects.

  • D: A doctor, after diagnosing the patient with a broken foot, prescribed painkillers.





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